New Ollerton based Formula Renault UK team Manor Competition made an excellent start to its 2007 Winter Championship campaign during official testing at Donington Park National Circuit this morning, a great boost ahead of Saturday's opening two rounds.

Heading into the four-round series with realistic hopes of retaining the title it won 12 months ago with French driver Franck Mailleux, Manor saw its current stars Alexander Sims and Kris Loane both produce impressive times today to reaffirm the squad's hopes of challenging for race victories just two days from now at the 1.96-mile venue.

During the first of this morning's two sessions Sims led the way by some 0.168 seconds from the nearest of his 28 rivals with a best time of 1m 05.691 seconds (107.26mph), the 19-year-old impressively topping the times at the circuit where he achieved his maiden Formula Renault UK race victory in July.

Very unfortunately, team-mate Loane was handicapped almost immediately with gear shift problems. Although only able to complete three laps in total in his regular race car, the Northern Irishman did have the opportunity to head out in one of the team's spare cars and during session two he didn't disappoint with the seventh fastest time.

Enjoying 39 laps in session two, Loane posted a quickest time of 1m 05.781 seconds (107.11mph), less than three 10ths of a second shy of the top of the times, and looks well placed for a maiden podium. He did actually lead the way on old tyres but crucially lost two 10ths of a second on his quickest run on new rubber due to a missed gear shift.

Sims was again consistently right at the sharp end, a lap of 1m 05.584 seconds placing him third in the session and just 0.081 seconds away from the best time of all. Having recorded his first car racing podium during last year's winter series, in only his third race, Sims is now aiming to follow former team-mate Mailleux by winning the championship.

"Other than the gear shift problems with Kris' regular car it's been a good day for us and we've shown we're going to be in the fight for wins this weekend", commented Manor team boss Tony Shaw, "Alexander was consistently fast at the top of the times all day and he's feeling very confident of a successful weekend.

"Kris has a great chance to be on the podium if qualifying goes according to plan, as we've seen during the main season he's improving every time he sits in the car so it promises to be a great weekend. Ideally we'd love to see both drivers on the podium at some point and although there's some very tough competition, we're pretty confident."

Prior to today's test, Sims did have the benefit of some additional running by taking part with Manor in the final two rounds of the French Formula Renault Championship at Barcelona in Spain last weekend. The second of the event's races was the best for the Peterborough sensation, a fighting drive from 10th on the grid netting him a top six result.

Qualifying for rounds one and two of the Formula Renault UK Winter Championship is scheduled to take place at 09.55 on Saturday, 3rd November, with the first race expected to start at 12.10 and race two set to begin at 15.20.